By PETER FINNEY Jr.
FATHER Frank Pavone, national Priests for Life director, told the Proudly
Pro-Life dinner that although there is no room for compromise on the
abortion issue, "we must recognize the dignity of the human person who
Although it sometimes is difficult for passionate pro-life advocates to avoid
condemning those who favor abortion rights, national Priests For Life director
Father Frank Pavone told the Proudly Pro-Life Dinner Jan. 16 that the best way
to advance the cause of life is to treat opponents with Christian respect and
While admitting that his stance has prompted criticism from among pro-lifers
for "collaborating" with evil, Father Pavone told 500 pro-life supporters at the
annual dinner that beginning a dialogue with abortion rights activists will reap
dividends for those who believe in the sanctity of life.
Father Pavone said he and Bill Baird, a prominent national abortion rights
figure, recently agreed to disagree on the issues but to avoid mean-spirited
"There is no room for compromise on our positions about, in our case, the
right to life and, in his case, reproductive rights," Father Pavone said. "But
although we do not seek some kind of middle ground or compromise or halfway
point, we acknowledge (that) as we pursue our respective causes, we must
recognize the dignity of the human person who opposes us on the other side of
this division. … "
"We must resolve that anything we say about the person on the other side of
this cause is rooted in truth, is accurate and that we do not provide any
deliberate insult to those on the other side. … One of the conclusions we've
come to is that our opponent is our brother and we must get to know him."
Father Pavone urged those involved in sidewalk prayer ministry in front of
abortion clinics "to get to know those people who work there and try to enter
into some kind of a relationship with them so you can sit down face-to-face and
talk and listen."
Father Pavone said one of the most challenging statements in the U.S.
bishops' 1998 document "Living the Gospel of Life" was its call for "the
humility to listen well to both friend and opponent, … learning from one another
and forgetting ourselves."
"The hardest word in the phrase, 'the sanctity of every human life,' is the
little word 'every,'" Father Pavone said. "As our Holy Father said in
'Evangelium Vitae,' not even the murderer loses his personal dignity. He
tramples it down, he contradicts it, but he doesn't lose it. Do you know how the
people of this nation who are now promoting the culture of death are going to be
converted? They are going to be converted when they see someone reflect back to
them the dignity of their own life."
Father Pavone said several psychiatrists have done recent studies of
abortionists to try to determine what allowed them to consent to "make their
living, or a part of it, by killing or dismembering living human beings." He
said the "consistent pattern" that has emerged has been their own childhood
history of "abuse and neglect."
"They have experienced a trampling, a crushing, a denial of the value of
their own dignity," Father Pavone said. "They need us, first of all, to help
them rediscover the value of their own life. That is a strange and curious
challenge to us because usually we see them as people whom we must oppose
because they are taking life. There is absolutely no question about (our
opposition), but they need someone to reflect back to them the dignity of their
own life. When they can begin to rediscover it in themselves, then perhaps they
will begin to discover it in those unborn children."
Father Pavone said 12 former abortionists attended a recent pro-life retreat
and committed themselves upon leaving to contacting the women on whom they had
performed abortions, offering an apology and asking if they needed any medical
treatment or counseling.
"This is repentance, this is purpose of amendment, this is a sign of hope,"
he said. "This is going to be the future of this movement. These are still our
brothers and sisters. They are our blood-stained brothers and sisters. They are
under a mountain of sin, and yet, who better than the body of Christ is going to
be there to rescue them?"
As for criticism he is collaborating with the "enemy," Father Pavone said, "I
maintain we are not dialoguing with evil. They are not the enemy. They are
captive to the enemy, but they are not the enemy. So does the witness of the
Church proclaim to us."
Father Pavone said despite abortion being legal for 30 years, there were
hopeful signs. The good news, which is "traveling slowly," is that 40 percent of
abortion clinics have closed in the last 10 years and there are fewer doctors
than ever willing to perform abortions. The option of chemical abortions has
"risen like a lead balloon," Father Pavone said.
"Doctors don't want to go anywhere near this practice," Father Pavone said.
"They are going away from this because they don't want to be known as killers."
He said NARAL, the former National Abortion Rights Action League, has changed
its name to NARAL Pro-Choice America to remove the word "abortion."
"Despite the superior financial, political and media power that the
pro-choice movement has, what they have utterly failed to do is to remove the
stigma from abortion," he said. "They cannot do it; they will never be able to
Father Pavone said women who have had abortions were planning to give silent
but powerful witness at pro-life rallies across the nation in commemoration of
Roe vs. Wade. They were to carry signs that read: "I Regret My Abortion."
"They want to encourage one another and encourage the masses of people who
suffer in silence who are made to feel silly for feeling sad about their
abortions," Father Pavone said. "They want to say to their sisters throughout
the world and to the men who are suffering post-abortion grief, 'You have a
reason to grieve. Your grief is valid. You are not alone in your grief, but
there is also hope.'"
Kathleen Benfield of the Louisiana Pro-Life Council was presented this year's
Proudly Pro-Life Award.